Leaving Ocean Road is set in South, Australia, Ireland and Greece. Irish born Esther Campion now lives in Tasmania, but has a daughter in Adelaide, where she has obviously done some research.
Central character Ellen is also born in Ireland and travels to Australia on a scholarship as a teenager. When she finds she is pregnant and her family disown her, she stays and marries new boyfriend Greek born Nick. Their shared experience of being new Australians bonds them.
Ellen had been in contact by mail with her old boyfriend from Ireland, Gerry, since her mother died, and ‘their relationship was relaunched like a salvaged shipwreck, a shadow of its former self but still in existence’.
When Ellen and Nick’s daughter Louise has just finished school tragedy strikes, and then Gerry turns up on her doorstep.
The novel looks at grief, its stages and how people deal with it, from the ‘awful gut-wrenching emptiness she’d faced every day for the last nine months’ to breaking away from that safe place and moving on.
It also touches on other issues with her daughter and her teenage concerns, their Aboriginal neighbour Tyson who is trying to have contact with his children again, and Ellen’s work as a social worker in family services and then aged care.
The descriptions of the Port Lincoln region read like an advertisement ‘with its wind-sculpted sand dunes, whales nursing their young, and surf crashing against the yellow limestone bluff winding its way west along the coast’.
This was an easy, engaging read.